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U.S. to increase spending to help refugees from Iraq

U.S. to increase spending to help refugees from Iraq

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WASHINGTON — The Bush administration agreed Wednesday to greatly expand the number of Iraqi refugees allowed into the country and to pay more to help Iraq’s Arab neighbors cope with the human tide fleeing increasing violence and economic hardship.

The decision to allow about 7,000 Iraqis to come to the United States answers mounting political and diplomatic pressure on the administration to do more to remedy the consequences of a war it largely started. Only 202 Iraqis were allowed in last year.

The administration also said it will immediately contribute $18 million for a worldwide resettlement and relief program. The United Nations has asked for $60 million from nations around the world.

Defense wraps up its case

in Libby’s perjury trial

WASHINGTON — Once expected to rival the courtroom dramas of Watergate and Iran-Contra, the trial of former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby neared a quick, unsensational close Wednesday.

Libby’s attorneys rested a truncated defense after the judge barred much of their classified evidence because Libby decided not to testify in his perjury trial. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wrapped up the government’s rebuttal in minutes.

On Tuesday, the jury will return to hear closing arguments about whether the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney lied to the FBI and a grand jury about whether he leaked to reporters in 2003 that Valerie Plame, the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA.

Comedian Al Franken says

he’ll run for Senate in ‘08

MINNEAPOLIS — Al Franken announced Wednesday that he will run for the Senate in 2008, making it clear that the comedian and author of “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot” wants to be taken seriously as a political figure.

Franken said he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Coast Guard boats not up to standards, audit finds

WASHINGTON — Government auditors reported Wednesday that several patrol boats built for the Coast Guard did not meet design standards, confirming complaints lodged by a former Lockheed Martin whistle-blower who aired his concerns on the Web site YouTube.

The Coast Guard’s contractors, Lockheed and Northrop Grumman, installed cables on the patrol boats that could cause toxic smoke if they caught fire and electronics equipment that may not be able to withstand rough seas, according to the report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

— Wire Reports

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